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Ian Fordham, Pam Boyd, and Tony Apicella of ContinYou, a leading youth development organization in the United Kingdom, describe their efforts to improve quality in out-of-school time programming nationwide.

Since 1992, ContinYou (formerly Education Extra) has been the leading not-for-profit organization in the United Kingdom for promoting out-of-school hours learning (OSHL). Recently, ContinYou has played a prominent role in efforts to improve and monitor the quality of OSHL programs. Our approach has been guided by the view that any quality assessment system must be simple, cost effective, responsive to the needs of a range of stakeholders, and, most important, supportive of innovative OSHL programs for young people. The development and success of our efforts, which include the creation of a national OSHL framework, after school quality models, and a quality assurance inspection system, may prove illuminating for after school professionals from both sides of the Atlantic.

Increasing Interest and Support for Quality in OSHL
While the child care field has a set of nationally prescribed standards and a number of quality frameworks, our national system of quality assurance for OSHL has not been as tightly defined. However, as a result of significant lobbying in the mid-nineties, the Department for Education and Skills (DFES) issued a report establishing a coherent framework for OSHL activities in schools that included a unifying vocabulary and a set of key planning principles.

Related Resources

Andrews, K. (2001). Extra learning: New opportunities for the out of school hours. London: Kogan Page.

Fordham, I. (2003, October). Bridging learning across the pond. Paper presented at the Harvard Learning With Excitement conference, Cambridge, MA.

For more information about national standards for out-of-school hours child care clubs see www.surestart.

ContinYou built on this basic quality guidance by partnering with the Office for Standards in Education, the government agency that inspects the quality of school teaching and learning. Together the two organizations established a system for integrating after school activities into the existing school inspection process. As a result, inspectors now assess the quality of “opportunities for enrichment” provided outside the school day in all English schools. Although the assessment process is currently limited in terms of allowing schools to use the data for their own program improvement, it is a promising step toward ensuring quality. For example, we have observed that many schools have begun to consider the OSHL assessments integral to their programs and achievement goals rather than as add-on components.

New Resources for Assessing and Rewarding Quality
In the past five years, these efforts have been aided by the development of three significant resources for monitoring after school quality in all four countries in the U.K.—England, Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland:

  1. A quality assurance tool that includes both in-school and out-of-school components (and varies slightly across countries). It includes separate sections on implementation, sustainability, and quality assurance, each consisting of multiple questions that are tied to a series of standards. This tool allows schools themselves to assess the quality of their OSHL programs.
  2. A standards-based recognition scheme that uses a portfolio assessment to identify high quality OSHL programs and reward them with a special quality credential.
  3. The Extra Quality self-assessment tool developed by ContinYou in partnership with Lloyds TSB (a leading bank in the U.K.). This tool assesses nine essential after school program categories (including leadership, people, processes, and results), which are derived from the widely used quality in education model in England. This self-assessment tool differs significantly from the quality assurance tool in that it is based on the principles of total quality management and on the business excellence model, and in that it assesses the quality of an after school program within a broader framework of whole school improvement.

Addressing Challenges to Ensure Quality
In working to improve quality through these new resources ContinYou has faced challenges, not least in convincing principals and policymakers to prioritize quality OSHL programs, which are a central resource for raising young peoples’ self-esteem and achievement. Several developments look promising, however. For example, national frameworks for OSHL now exist in England and Wales. Another development is an infrastructure throughout counties, districts, and schools made up of OSHL coordinators responsible for monitoring quality. Support from the departments of education in all four countries has also been valuable. The DFES recently invested over $1 million in the three-year Quality Development Programme, aimed at helping schools to integrate OSHL into mainstream school priorities.

In combination with the quality assessment tools described above, these initiatives may be adopted or adapted to bring quality to scale in individual settings at local, state, or national levels and on both sides of the Atlantic. As we move forward toward this goal, we will welcome opportunities to take the debate forward with models developed from both sides of the pond.

Ian Fordham
Training and Continuing Professional Development Manager
Tel: 011-44-794-124-5284

Pam Boyd
Executive Director
Tel: 011-44-208-709-9901

Tony Apicella
National Programme Director
Tel: 011-44-776-863-5456

17 Old Ford Road
Bethnal Green, London E2 9PJ

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